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Judges may choose an alternative to jail for many offenders

Criminal judges in Ohio have a number of options available to them when a custodial sentence seems inappropriate or excessive. Judges may consider the type of offense involved as well as the previous record of the defendant. The age of the defendant and the impact that the crime had on the victims will also be taken into consideration before a judge decides on the appropriate sanctions.

Defendants who have no prior criminal record or are accused of less serious crimes may receive a suspended sentence. A judge may decide not to hand down a sentence, or the judge may hand the sentence down but order that it not be carried out. However, suspended sentences are often conditional on defendants staying out of trouble or attending drug or alcohol counseling. Probation is similar to a suspended sentence, and offenders on probation may face more severe punishment if they do not abide by strict terms established during their sentencing.

Some judges prefer to sentence minor offenders to community service. This both saves cash-strapped authorities money and provides residents with valuable services such as snow clearance or litter removal. Defendants accused of traffic violations or similar offenses may be required to pay a fine, and judges may also order that restitution be paid to the victims of crimes to cover expenses such as medical expenses or property repairs.

Criminal defense attorneys may recommend alternatives to a custodial sentence during plea negotiations. Prosecutors may be receptive to a plea agreement even when their evidence is compelling as a guilty plea eliminates the uncertainty of a trial. Judges may be receptive to a plea that calls for an alternative sentence as it clears a case from their docket, provides for more appropriate sanctions and saves the taxpayers money.

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